Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Zaha outshines Richarlison as Hornets ill-discipline strikes again
Crystal Palace moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this campaign as two late goals earnt Roy Hodgson’s side a dramatic victory against ten-man Watford at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night.
Daryl Janmaat’s opener inside three minutes made it seem like a long evening was ahead for the hosts, finding space at the back-post to fire home a header after some neat work from Richarlison out wide.
Marco Silva’s side had numerous chances to double their advantage either side of the break, with Troy Deeney first skewing a shot wide of the mark from just six-yards out with the goal at his mercy before Richarlison’s strike from inside the area was expertly blocked by Julian Speroni’s legs.
And it looked like the visitors were comfortably heading for three points until the match turned on its head in the dying moments, sparked by Tom Cleverley’s dismissal for a late lunge on Jeffrey Schlupp.
Substitute Bakary Sako bundled in from close range for Palace in the last minute of normal time before James McArthur popped up inside the area in the 92nd minute to lift the roof right off of Selhurst Park.
The three points – gained in the most dramatic circumstances – see Palace rise up and out of the relegation spots for the first time this season into 17th in the table, whilst Watford remain in ninth.
Palace turn it around late on
On September 12, Roy Hodgson took charge of Crystal Palace with the Eagles rock bottom of the Premier League table, devoid of confidence, sitting on 0 points and simply struggling to find the back of the net.
On December 12, Palace lifted themselves out of the relegation zones for the first time this season.
It’s a remarkable turnaround in such a short space of time led by a man that many Crystal Palace supporters labelled a laughable appointment, and it’ll go a long way to keeping his big critics quiet.
For long periods of Tuesday’s encounter it looked like it wouldn’t be Palace’s night, with Hodgson’s side struggling to test Heurelho Gomes whilst Watford spurned a number of chances to extend their advantage.
Yet at 1-0 they were always in the game, and as soon as Tom Cleverley was given his marching orders late on there was a new sense of urgency to the way that Palace pushed players forward.
The character and drive on show in those final few minutes was a stark contrast to where Palace were when Hodgson took on the job and it’s testament to the mentality instilled by their manager.
There’s still an awful long way to go until May, and there will no doubt be a few ups and downs around Selhurst Park between now and then, but Palace look like a team determined to battle for their survival.
Zaha outshines Richarlison
One person at the heart of Crystal Palace’s efforts was the enigma that is Wilfried Zaha.
If there was ever a match to summarise just how frustrating the 25-year-old can be then it was this one, failing to provide any meaningful contribution for 88 minutes until turning into a match-winner.
Throughout Zaha’s entire career he’s been tarred with the same brush, being clever and willing to drive at defenders in solid build-up play before falling short when it comes to finding an end product.
And it seemed that that would be the story on Tuesday night again as despite all of his endeavours and efforts in the final third Palace failed to have a shot on target until the 85th minute. That was, until he produced two pieces of inspiration in a matter of minutes in the most unlikely of victories.
Out of nowhere he became irrepressible, firing in a fierce low drive that could only be parried into Sako’s path, before he created the winner himself by bamboozling Janmaat with some tricky footwork down the left-hand side and bursting into the area, feeding McArthur to deftly slot home.
It’s not often that a player can outshine Watford’s new Brazilian wonderkid Richarlison but that’s exactly what Zaha managed to do, and now the emphasis is on the need for him to find consistency.
Watford’s ill-discipline proves costly again
Another week, another red card.
It was an all-too familiar story for Watford once again on Tuesday night as the Hornets’ prominent ill-discipline reared its ugly head, ultimately costing them some points for the second time in a week.
On Saturday it was Marvin Zeegelaar who saw red for a rash challenge, with Burnley capitalising on their man advantage just minutes later, and this time around it was Tom Cleverley’s turn to see red.
His dismissal in the 87th minute sparked a dramatic finale at Selhurst Park and condemned the Hornets to a fourth Premier League game without a win against a team they should have beaten.
It also signalled the eighth red card that Watford have received since the start of the 2016-17 season, more than any other top-flight club, and it’s now a real problem that they have to address.
Whilst there was no disputing Cleverley’s challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp that earnt him a second yellow, Watford boss Marco Silva believed that the hosts should have had a red card of their own shortly before when Patrick van Aanholt’s tackle from behind on Roberto Pereyra went unpunished.
There’s certainly an argument for the Palace man being sent-off but, either way, Watford should have had the intelligence and mettle to see out the remaining few minutes and kept the hosts out.
Instead, the Hornets will be left ruing their ill-discipline and wondering what could have been again.
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